Christ / Culture / December 17, 2007

Does Country Music Cause Suicide?

Does all that crooning about drinking and divorce in country music contribute to the prevalence of suicide in its listeners? That’s the question Steven Stack and Jim Gundlach seek to answer in a recent study entitled The Effect of Country Music on Suicide. The report concludes that country music, indeed, contributes to suicide rates:

Country music is hypothesized to nurture a suicidal mood through its concerns with problems common in the suicidal population, such as marital discord, alcohol abuse, and alienation from work. The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate. The effect is independent of divorce, southernness, poverty, and gun availability. The existence of a country music subculture is thought to reinforce the link between country music and suicide. Our model explains 51% of the variance in urban white suicide rates.

Music functions as both a window and a mirror. It is a window that provides a glimpse of what is driving the culture. And it is a mirror that reflects the preferences of its listeners. So what does it reveal about us when country music contributes to suicide rates?

Many of the lyrics embedded in country music speak to the trials and tribulations of southern culture. Whether its singing about the loss of momma, the end of a marriage or the sorrow of another night in the local honky tonk, country music is often marked by despair. So, it should come as no surprise that this kind of music sometimes contributes to the greatest example of despair in the world – suicide.

Suicide is the most horrifying form of death there is. Why? Because it is the ultimate act of pride. Though it seems to be an act of humility, suicide is actually the pinnacle of hubris as someone determines that the taking of their life is more important than the abandonment of all those who are connected with them. Moreover, in suicide, they present an anti-gospel by destroying the life that has been created in God’s image.

Whether country music actually causes suicide or whether its lyrics are more volatile than other forms of music are still up for debate. But what is certain is that suicide is evidence of complete despair.

Tags:  Alcohol Country Music Despair Divorce Suicide

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Jan 11, 2008

[…] Bethancourt asks whether Country Music Causes Suicide. Does his boss know about this blog […]

Jan 16, 2010

yes!country music might lead to suicides,as it can either aggravate the condition of someone tensed,or introduce a feeling of something amiss in the mind of someone who is perfectly happy.but this is effective only when listeners are suicide prone.strong willed people are not affected.

Aug 24, 2010

One of my pet peeves is people who draw unwarranted conclusions from studies.

Case in point: “The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate.”

This DOES NOT logically prove anything.

Here’s a hint: what do many depressed people listen to? Answer: Depressing music.

It’s possible, even likely, that places with more depressed people are more likely to listen to country music, and thus more country music gets played because radio stations know their demographics and play what their listeners tend to listen to.

The study doesn’t show in which direction causality takes place. Does the music influence the suicidal depression? Or does the suicidal depression influence the music choice? Or do both happen in a sort of feedback loop?

All of those are possibilities. And they aren’t even the only possibilities, just the 3 simplest ones.

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